From Half of Me to All of Me: Recovering from Exercise Addiction

TW: exercise addiction, mentions of disordered thought processes.

 

The summer before my junior year of high school I fell in love with working out. I frequently attended a yoga-pilates fusion class and loved it. I carved time out of my busy schedule of cheer practices, homework, and clubs to go to the gym. After cheer season ended that fall, I found a variety of other fitness classes to attend. My local YMCA truly was my stress reliever and happy place.

My love for fitness became an obsession with working out. As someone who was a recovered calorie counter,I obsessed over the analytics. I would stress about the “perfect” length of time spent in the gym and would force myself to do cardio for the workout to “count.” On days I couldn’t make it to my regular scheduled classes, I would sit in my room feeling terrible about the day. My stress relief became the root of my stress.

“I barely recognized you! You’re half an Emma! You look so good!”

Those are the words my sophomore cheer coach said to me at the end of my calorie counting days. Those are the words that would creep from the back of my mind to fuel my exercise addiction a year and a half later. I wasn’t exercising just because it felt good, I was exercising to be half an Emma. Luckily something in my mind changed and I realized I don’t want to be a run-down version of myself. I want to be a full Emma.

I wish I could say the road of recovery for exercise addiction is easy—it’s not. I still struggle with obsessing over my Apple Watch analytics and taking rest days. I’m lucky to have the best workout buddy and friend to hold me accountable to take days off. She has been there for me to listen to my concerns, validate my feelings and then encourage me in the best way. Every day is different and changing my view on fitness has been hard, but let me tell you, recovery is worth it. Now, I go to the gym or to a fitness class with intention and a purpose. I focus on feeling good and moving my body in a way that feels good!

 

Everyone’s recovery is different, but here are some tips that have and continue to help me daily:

  1. It’s 100% okay to skip wearing your Apple Watch/Fitbit on rest days, or any day!

  2. Do movement that feels good to you. If you want to do Zumba, great! If you want to go for a walk, awesome! If you want to take a cycling class, wonderful! If you want to sit on the couch all day, great! Listen to your body and what it wants!

  3. Be intuitive and purposeful in your workouts. Set an intention and let it encourage you throughout your workout. One of my favorites is to "be strong."

  4. Even if you don’t workout, you are an incredible, amazing, beautiful person, inside and out!